Viewed – 04 January 2014
So the first movie of 2014, and it’s a Studio Ghibli release. This most recent offering from the famed Japanese animation house tells the tale of Umi (voiced by Sarah Bolger) and Shun (voiced by Anton Yelchin). Set in 1963 in Yokohama during the run up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Umi is a student who becomes involved in the protests of a group of students to prevent the demolition of their club house. Along the way she meets the cool and popular Shun and together the two development a friendship that gradually turns into love.
This well observed and utterly charming movie has a strong central love story and plenty of the studio’s quirks and humour, with a real-world backdrop that fascinated me. Every ounce of emotion and personality is so well done that believing in these characters and their story isn’t difficult … and at times as twists and turns take place, I actually felt quite emotional. Ghibli’s movies away from what you get with Disney, can concentrate on things that other major studios gloss over, and as this isn’t the usual fantasy, Japanese mythology based fair of Spirited Away and the like … I was surprised just how entertaining this managed to be. It’s a very simple tale at heart, and lacks action or a big event, but this is a character piece and in that respect it works brilliantly.
Again Ghibli’s hand-drawn animation is a treat, very detailed and full of vibrancy and beauty – it’s quite a work of art, and so sad to see such traditional techniques losing out to CGI these days, no matter how pretty the likes of Toy Story are. So a gentler, less showy effort from Studio Ghibli but still one that’s well worth your time, especially if you’re a fan.
Verdict: 3.5 /5